OSU report card: Cowboys' defense saves the day against Tulsa while offense struggles
OSU survived Tulsa 28-23 Saturday, with dominating defense and sporadic offense. The Cowboy report card tells the story:
Spencer Sanders: C
The third-year starting quarterback had some big plays, including a 37-yard scramble that set up the game-sealing touchdown. But Sanders’ numbers were just so-so; he completed 15 of 26 passes for 173 yards, one interception and two touchdowns. His TDs were the result of spectacular plays by freshman receivers Jaden Bray and Bryson Green. Sanders’ interception was disastrous – he threw to the wrong route, and linebacker Justin Wright returned the pick 55 yards for an easy touchdown. Sanders also threw two sideline passes that were near-interceptions and would have been pick-sixes, too. And Sanders even fumbled on the 37-yard gain, but a Tulsa player touched the ball while he was out of bounds, letting OSU retain possession at the TU 8-yard line.
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Pass coverage: A
Tulsa receivers rarely ran free. Cornerbacks Jarrick Bernard-Converse and Christian Holmes made leave-their-feet pass breakups. TU quarterback Davis Brin completed 19 of 27 passes for 224 yards. He hit a couple of deep balls – Sam Crawford Jr. made a 40-yard reception over Jabbar Muhammad, and Juan Carlos Santana beat Bernard-Converse for a 37-yard gain – but this is the 21st century. Those things happen.
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Running game: C
The OSU running game remains a thorn in Mike Gundy’s flesh. The Cowboys gained 118 yards on 37 called running plays, an average of 3.2 yards per carry. Gundy wants 4.5. How ineffective was the running game? The shortest yardage needed by OSU on third down was a solitary third-and-5. That’s because the Cowboys rarely made much on first down. OSU did convert a fourth-and-1, with Dominic Richardson hopping over a pile to gain three yards, to the Tulsa 13-yard line.
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Perhaps the worst look in the decade-plus since the Cowboys became fashion mavens. White helmets, light gray jerseys with bright orange numbers, white pants. Looked like practice uniforms. The numbers were hard to read. Not much contrast. Everything blended together. OSU usually is cutting-edge in wardrobe. Not Saturday.
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Short-yardage defense: A
Tulsa converted just once on third downs when needing less than five yards. The key sequence came early in the fourth quarter, with the game tied 14-14, and Tulsa having a first down at the OSU 7-yard line. Shamari Brooks rushed for back-to-back three-yard gains, then Tyler Lacy and Malcolm Rodriguez grabbed tailback Deneric Prince for a one-yard loss. TU settled for a field goal. Holmes also broke up a pass on Tulsa’s 2-point conversion with 3:06 left in the game.
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OSU veteran wideouts Braydon Johnson and Langston Anderson missed the game due to injury, and Tay Martin went out after a few plays with a hurting ankle. But true freshmen Bray, Green and John Paul Richardson combined for eight catches on the 10 passes that came their way. Bray and Green made those fabulous plays for touchdowns. They missed some blocks, had some drops and drew a penalty or two. But the future looks very bright at receiver.
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Kickoff game: A
LD Brown’s 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the play of the game, giving OSU a 21-17 lead in the fourth quarter. But the Cowboys were good on every kickoff. Gundy wanted more touchbacks and got them, with all five of Tanner Brown’s kickoffs reaching the end zone. TU actually tried to return two, with dubious results. Neither got past the Golden Hurricane 11-yard line.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.